The little-known world of art theft is compellingly portrayed in Dolnick's account of the 1994 theft and recovery of Edvard Munch's iconic painting The Scream.
In the predawn gloom of a February day in 1994, two thieves entered the
National Gallery in Oslo. They snatched one of the world's most famous
paintings, Edvard Munch's The Scream, and fled with their $72
million trophy. The thieves made sure the world was watching: the Winter
Olympics, in Lillehammer, began that same morning. Baffled and humiliated,
the Norwegian police called on the world's greatest art detective, a
half-English, half-American undercover cop named Charley Hill.
In this rollicking narrative, Edward Dolnick takes us inside the art underworld. The trail leads high and low, and the cast ranges from titled aristocrats to thick-necked thugs. Lord Bath, resplendent in ponytail and velvet jacket, presides over a 9,000-acre estate. David Duddin, a 300-pound fence who once tried to sell a stolen Rembrandt, spins exuberant tales of his misdeeds. We meet Munch, too, a haunted misfit who spends his evenings drinking in the Black Piglet Café and his nights feverishly trying to capture in paint the visions in his head. The most compelling character of all is Charley Hill, an ex-soldier, a would-be priest, and a complicated mix of brilliance, foolhardiness, and charm. The hunt for The Scream will either cap his career and rescue one of the world's best-known paintings or end in a fiasco that will dog him forever.
The mismatched pictures stare down from the wall of the tiny
Vermeer, Goya, Titian, Munch, Rembrandt. Ordinary reproductions worth only a few dollars, they are unframed and of different sizes.
Several dangle slightly askew from tacks jammed in the wall. The originals hung in gilt frames in the grandest museums in the world, and tourists made pilgrimages to see them. Each was worth millions, or tens of millions.
And, at some point in the last several years, each was stolen. Some were recoveredthe tall man who arranged this small display is the one who found themand some are still missing. The "curator" of this odd collection dislikes anything that smacks of statistics, but he is haunted by a melancholy fact: nine out of ten stolen paintings disappear forever.
In the world of art crime, one detective has an unmatched résumé. His name is Charley Hill. The aim of this book is to explore the art underworld;...
Edvard Munch, Norway's most popular artist, died in 1944, aged 81. He was a painter, lithographer, etcher and wood engraver, most famous for his paintings of The Scream. . He created five different variations of The Scream (4 paintings and one lithograph) which is fortunate as the Norwegians do seem to have a habit of losing them. In 1994 one was stolen from Oslo's National Gallery, and then in 2004 another version was stolen from the Munch Museum (a tempura on cardboard version) along with Munch's Madonna...
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